Every day, enthused fans of musicians find joy in comparing their favourite artists.
As kids, huddled in corners of the playground and walking down the street, we always engaged in battles about ‘who repped a better creator’. We fought over the art, breaking down the lyrics, the sound and the feeling that rappers and singers, offered us. If you added dancing to the mix, you became a god. Michael Jackson’s name is indelibly etched in the prime spot of our hearts, Usher is there too, and Chris Brown?
Interaction with art is an endless and inevitable process. As long as art gets to the people, and a connection is attained, interaction becomes eternal. Interaction –for all its benefits– is a spectrum. People connect with art, and processes it through the viewpoint of myriad human lenses, evoking emotions that help with the evaluation. On that spectrum also lies comparisons.
When we are united physically, or in spaces that guarantee us the right to speak freely, we are bound to compare notes. What we do when we say “Wizkid is better than Davido,” isn’t a fresh conversation. It’s the intersection of two independent monologues. We are comparing notes, and challenging our choices. Is Wizkid really better than Davido? Does Davido have a more robust celebrity than he does? What does this all mean?
Wizkid is regarded as the gold standard by a majority of Nigerians. Although a section of enthusiasts continue to elevate Davido, but rarely does it ever hold for long. From Starboy’s breakthrough, this has been the case.
After Wizkid cemented his place in hearts, comparison was employed by the music industry to profit off of his style.
How many times did we get a new artist from the conveyor belt of obscurity hoping to be the next Wizkid because “he sounds like Wizkid?” Every kid who came after for the next few years patterned a part of their process to mirror, ape or strip down Wizkid’s sauce. Why does it work for him so much? Why is it easy for his art, including his loosies to garner so much love? What is that element, that factor, or jazz that is in his music and person? From whence does it cometh?
The Wizkid vs Davido debate is the peak conversation of comparisons in Nigerian music. It’s a zenith that artists aspire to taste. It’s a pointless point to debate, but well, blame the mind. That silly thing. We engage in it because it is an extension of interaction, an inevitable process that happens after art is shared in the public space. We’ve fed fat on Wizkid and Davido’s art, and appreciated their impact at the highest level of the scene.
Why don’t we make comparisons between them? We know it’s meaningless, and there is no trophy for which eventually wins, but we still do it. Whoever tops each battle doesn’t take home a cheque; neither do they advance in their career.
That’s why the entrance of Rema has opened up a new field for comparisons. The 18-year-oldish singer who’s signed to Mavins has leapfrogged everyone into top spot for best new artists. The speed of his breakthrough is record-worthy, and his sound and style has many harbouring the opinion that he is the new Wizkid.
Rema isn’t a copycat. He has sauce, swag and range. There’s a clear semi-juvenile angle that his handlers are marketing, and the fact that he looks like everyone’s younger brother is a great trait to have. His music is fresh, contains new vibes and ‘lamba’, the production feels forward, and everything is – to put it in the simplest way – “sweet.” He is original.
Comparisons show up because a part of Rema sounds and feels like a younger Wizkid. You might try to rationalize it away, but that is true. There’s a correlation between Rema’s art and Wizkid’s. It’s in the vocal texture and delivery. You can find Wizkid’s ‘Fever’ in Rema’s ‘Corny’. Isolate the vocals and cadence, and you can cue in one after the other. People who have pointed this out aren’t lying, they are on to something.
But would the Mavins want to market their new product as a knock-off or variation of a super power? No. The hype about it might flatter them, but they know that unless Rema wields enough to knock down Wizkid, it will peg him back. No one has defeated Wizkid. He is beyond consideration or beef. He is an idol now. He commands a love and respect that is manifested with abandon by his fans. To younger people following him, being a Wizkid fan is no longer an exercise of taste. It is a personality trait.
If Rema keeps this up, he is on his way here. The top isn’t a dream for him. It’s a clearly defined goal, which he is equipped to achieve. He has the backing and funding to pull it off. He is in such prime position to ascend. No one knows how this blows out, but ideally, it fades to the background, and allows Rema to elevate himself and his art. 2019 already looks like its breakthrough artist is here. It’s a blessing for the culture. The pool needs a lot of additions, and the culture demands that we move forward. New artists move the scene forward. They offer enjoyment to the public, and encouragement to their colleagues. When a new artist blows, they remind the existing ones of their mortality. How fickle birth and death of a star is. It’s an epiphany that only inspires new music and moves. Who doesn’t want new music?